Blind River Beavers Cochrane Crunch Elliot Lake Wildcats Espanola Express French River Rapids Hearst Lumberjacks Kirkland Lake Gold Miners Powassan Voodoos Rayside Balfour Canadiens Soo Eagles Soo Thunderbirds Timmins Rock | Hockey Canada Canadian Junior Hockey League Northern Ontario Hockey Association

Former Beaver Brandon Bazinet heads home from Truro

Long road ahead Ryan

The Truro Bearcats rally around teammate Brandon Bazinet after presenting him with his jersey at practice on Thursday. Bazinet went on the ice one final time before heading home to Ontario.

Ryan Cooke/Truro Daily News

Bazinet heads home after final Bearcats practice

TRURO – Players lined up one by one, each waiting their turn to say goodbye to a friend and fellow teammate.

They each patted him on the head – lightly, no doubt with the consequences of his injuries in mind – and then hugged him.

Brandon Bazinet skated off the ice at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre one last time, with his jersey in hand and water in his eyes. Holding back emotion, Bazinet headed to the dressing room early before leaving the arena one last time.

“It’s hard,” he said. “It’s hard to leave the boys. We’ve been like a family.”

Bazinet first came to the Bearcats organization at the start of last season, after spending the previous year with the Blind River Beavers of the Northern Ontario Hockey League. He was a quick fit, putting up 36 points in 46 games while also showing the defensive prowess that made him the NOJHL’s top defensive forward.

“He’s a great player, a natural centre,” said Bearcats teammate and fellow centreman Brandon Pye. “He’s got an offensive side, but he’s great on both sides of the puck.”

As skilled as he is, Bazinet’s weakness soon became vulnerable. After playing in 12 of the Bearcats playoff games, he sat out the entire Fred Page Cup with a concussion. It was the second concussion of his career.

After getting back in playing shape over the summer, Bazinet’s season didn’t last long. He suffered another concussion just five games into the year. Faced with a tough decision, he chose to put his gear aside and focus on his future. He’d never play junior hockey again.

Thursday night, Bazinet took part in the team’s weekly shootout before being presented his jersey. After saying goodbye to his teammates, he packed his car and headed back to Sudbury the next morning.

“All the guys who came back this year, and the new faces, I love them all,” Bazinet said. “It’s hard to walk away, but it’s what I have to do I guess.”

Since making his decision, Bazinet has suited up for every Bearcats game – though in a shirt and tie rather than skates and a jersey. Being around the team has been hard at times, he said, but not as hard as dealing with the ongoing torture in his head.

“The symptoms have been the hardest part,” he said. “When it’s been so long and I’m still feeling them, the decision is clear.”

With 1,847 kilometres of highway ahead of him, Bazinet will have plenty of time to think about going home, and what he’ll leave behind.

“I haven’t seen my family for four months, so that part is exciting. But I think that’s going to go away after a few days, when I’m missing the guys here and this lifestyle.”

Bazinet thanked the organization, as well as his billet family, Tara and Brent Sullivan, for being there for him since the start of last season.

One thing is for sure; he’ll be keeping a close eye on his Bearcat family.

“Without a doubt I’ll be keeping track. I hope the boys will have a strong second half and go for another championship.”